Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline
Crown, 2011. 372 pgs. Science Fiction
What a gas! Ready Player One is so much fun to read you'll wish you hadn't finished it so you could read it for the first time. As our story begins it is 2044 and the world has pretty much oozed down the drain. Fossil fuels are almost completely exhausted and the poor live in trailer parks where the units are stacked fifteen high. Most of the populace maintains sanity by avoiding "real life" and living virtually, in the OASIS universe, where one just has to log on to be anything or anyone, anywhere. Wade Watts, through his avatar Parzival, spends most every hour he is not in his online school trying to solve the riddle left by OASIS' creator when he died. Somewhere in his multiverse James Halliday has hidden three keys that open three gates. Whoever makes his or her way through the third gate first inherits Halliday's billions. After five years with no progress, many "gunters" have given up on the quest but Parzival's careful study of 80s pop culture finally pays off and he finds the Copper Key and goes through the first gate. A friend and an admired blogger follow him, but as the leaders' names are posted on the scoreboard, the Dark Empire of Innovative Online Industries lurches into action and soon real people in the real world are dying and Wade and his friends are on the run in and out of OASIS.
Some gaming chops and a working knowledge of 80s music, movies, and arcade games is helpful but not necessary in enjoying this crackerjack of a futuristic adventure with enough thought-provoking themes to make it not just fluff.